Lowell Cross

(b. 24 June 1938, Kingsville, Texas).

American composer of electroacoustic and multimedia works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as an instrument builder.

Prof. Cross initially studied English and mathematics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock from 1956–61 and earned his first BA in these subjects. He also studied clarinet with Keith McCarty, composition and music theory with Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn and the history of art and architecture with Elizabeth S. Sasser there from 1961–63 and earned his second BA in music. He then studied electronic music with Gustav Ciamaga and Myron Schaeffer, ethnomusicology with Mieczysław Koliński, media and society with Marshall McLuhan, and musicology with Gerhard Wuensch at the University of Toronto from 1964–68, on the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.

Among his honours is the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Texas Tech University (1986). His music has been performed throughout the world, including twice at the ISCM World Music Days (1966, Stockholm; 1977, Bonn) and once at the Biennale di Venezia (1980). In addition, his multimedia works have been widely exhibited, including twice at the World's Fair (video art, Expo 67, 1967, Montréal; laser projections, Expo '70, 1970, Ōsaka), for each of which he used technological innovations of his own design.

As an instrument builder, he designed the audio-panning device The Stirrer, for the simultaneous movement of four sounds in space, from 1963–65. He then constructed the 16-input/8-output electronic chessboard used by John Cage and Marcel and Teeny Duchamp in Reunion in 1968, a model of which he made a new version in 1999–2000. He has also assembled numerous devices for laser shows since 1968, including the 4-colour laser-deflection system VIDEO/LASER I in 1969, the 4-colour laser-deflection system VIDEO/LASER II in 1969–70, the 4-colour laser-deflection system VIDEO/LASER III in 1971–72, which he modified as a 6-colour laser-deflection system in 1980, and the 6-colour laser-deflection system VIDEO/LASER IV in 1979–80, all in collaboration with Carson D. Jeffries. Together with the composer and pianist David Tudor, he gave the first multicolour laser-performance in public in Oakland, California in 1969. He later realised the part for clavier à lumières of Prométhée. Le Poème du feu, Op. 60 by Alexander Scriabin in 1975, using VIDEO/LASER III.

He is also active in other positions. He installed a studio for electronic music at Texas Tech University in 1961. He has worked as an engineer and producer since 1961 and has produced recordings for various labels, including Albany Records, Bridge Records, Composers Recordings, Inc., Music & Arts, Orion, Philips Records, the University of Iowa Press, and Vienna Modern Masters. Moreover, he has written numerous articles for publications in France, Germany, Spain, and the USA, as well as the book A Bibliography of Electronic Music (1967, University of Toronto Press; second edition, 1968, reprinted 1970).

He taught as Lecturer in Music at Mills College in Oakland, California in 1968–69, where he also served as artistic director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. He then served as both a teacher of and technical advisor in electronic music at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India in 1970, on a grant from John D. Rockefeller III. He taught art and technology, musical acoustics, recording techniques, and other subjects at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from 1971–2002, where he was Professor of Music from 1981–2002, now emeritus. He has given lectures and seminars in Europe and the USA, as well as in Canada, India and Mexico.


Website (personal):

Website (a memoir of his experiences with David Tudor, also including autobiographical details):



0.8 Century, fixed media (2 tracks), 1961–62

Three Etudes for Magnetic Tape, fixed media (2 tracks), 1965 (also version for fixed media [4 tracks], 1968)

Reunion (2 chess games), electronic chessboard (with 16 inputs/8 outputs) (3 players), 1968 (collaboration with David Behrman, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Teeny Duchamp, Gordon Mumma, David Tudor; a realisation of 0'00" No. 2 by John Cage)


Video II: 3 musical and visual works generated from the same piece for fixed media (2 tracks), 1965, often performed simultaneously: (B) modified monochrome TV, 1965; (C) modified colour TV, 1966; (L) krypton laser, 4-colour laser-deflection system, 1969

Musica Instrumentalis, bandoneón, live electronics, modified colour TV, 1966

Laser Event I, fixed media (4 tracks), 6-colour argon–krypton laser projections, 1981

Laser Event II, fixed media (4 tracks), 6-colour argon–krypton laser projections, 1982

Chicago Laser Triangle (feasibility study), blue-green argon laser (sending beam from the Willis Tower to the John Hancock Center and to the Aon Center, all in Chicago), 1982

Laser Event III, fixed media (4 tracks), 6-colour argon–krypton laser projections, 1983

Laser Space, fixed media (4 tracks), 6-colour argon–krypton laser projections, 1987